Art lessons for leadership

Art is one of the best ways to understand the world around us and reflect how we are inserted in it. From this source we can also draw important lessons for thinking and exercising leadership, from history, literature and philosophy. I include sport in this list, which I consider a possible form of artistic expression. All of these dimensions, in addition, of course, to everyday life, complement and illustrate the learning derived from concepts, research results, academic proposals and direct observation, as well as the analysis of practical cases of the trajectory of leaders in various areas of activity.

Those who have already participated in a Leader Development Program promoted by Empreenda, a company I manage, have already exercised reflections based on learning about leadership, career and business life extracted from some films, plays, art exhibitions, music, literary texts and events sporting goods. I am convinced that learning about these topics goes far beyond the 'classroom' and reading technical and academic books.

We can take advantage of this moment of social isolation imposed by Covid-19 to deepen our incursion into the field of the arts, in search of inspiration and knowledge about leadership.

In painting, for example, the avant-garde works of Tarsila do Amaral, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso are inexhaustible sources, with analyzes of the representativeness of several of his works. Also consider that the trajectory and behavior of these artists have become outstanding examples of the exercise of leadership.

Monet's “Le Levant du Soleil” / “Impression, soleil Lift”, painted in 1874-1872, was a decisive milestone in the history of painting, inaugurating the Impressionist movement. Leonardo da Vinci's multifunctional personality as a painter, sculptor, architect, mathematician and inventor enshrined him as a precursor to the innovative and transformative leadership, so demanded by the market today.

One possibility of immersion, for those who are at home and have some time for 'functional leisure', is to visit virtually some of the best museums in the world, such as the Prado, in Madrid (ESP); the Ufizzi Gallery, Florence (ITA); and the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg (RUS).

In the theater, plays like “12 Men and a Sentence” put us in front of the complex decision-making process, including the ability to influence and negotiate, when a popular jury is deciding whether or not to convict a young man accused of murder. This piece is based on the famous eponymous film produced in 1957, available on different streaming systems.

Another recent highlight is the monologue “The Shadow of the Invisible”, whose script is based on letters exchanged between Van Gogh and his brother Theo. The play allows for a beautiful dive into aspects of self-management, which persists as a kind of "Achilles' heel" for genius leaders in the execution of tasks and projects, but vulnerable in the ability to lead themselves.

Other ancient theatrical works that were very striking in my personal learning were “Galileo Galilei” and “The Death of the Traveling Salesman”. We can also watch, at home, videos of several famous musicals like "Trickster's Opera", "Rent", "Chicago" and "The Miserables".

Obviously, cinema is not far behind and can provoke extraordinary debates regarding themes linked to leadership. I have used the films “Invictus” and “The Devil Wears Prada” a lot. However, I would like to highlight some of the most recent must-see works from 2019, such as “Two Popes”; “Judy”, about a bright star on the stage, Judy Garland, while experiencing a waning moon in her personal life; and "Ford vs Ferrari", with several lessons on brand competition, collaboration between teams, courage, betrayal and dynamics of family and social relationships in the field of work.

In this delicate and scarce moment that we are going through, the film “Lost on Mars” deserves to be seen, as it reports the rescue capacity and the enormous pressure of time, in addition to the determination of the astronaut, who was 'abandoned' on Mars, to survive the extreme adversity. It is worth reflecting on the prerequisites for a turnaround, whether in the economy or in companies and families, given the current period of forced confinement.

Still in the audiovisual, I recommend some series, such as “Succession”, on Netflix, which can be masterfully complemented by reading or a video of the play “King Lear”, by William Shakespeare.

This form of learning, permeated by leisure and cultural enrichment, appears in several other manifestations of art such as dance, music and literature. All are lavish in leadership lessons, as are many sports. However, this would already be a topic for an upcoming text.

When reading these suggestions, if a film, play, cultural activity or idea that can serve as a source of learning comes to mind, please do not hesitate to provoke me. I am an eternal apprentice on leadership and other topics.

You have to transform yourself to be an agent of the transformation that your company needs and that the moment demands!

César Souza is the founder and president of Grupo Empreenda, consultant and speaker in Business Strategy, Leader Development and in structuring Innovation Hubs. Author of “Be the Leader the Moment Requires”